Following the Chilkoot Trail is to take a journey into the past, to the time before the gold-rush era of prospectors when the Tlingit people used the route to trade coastal products for pelts and plants with the people of the interior. The trail is a significant historic site, and has been described as ‘the world’s longest outdoor museum.’
The 33-mile (53km) trail is for walkers only, who take three to five days to follow the often difficult route that in gold-rush days was the most direct path from the port at Skagway to the gold fields of the Yukon. The route was shorter than White Pass but more deadly.
Prospectors taking the Chilkoot route were advised to carry a ton of gear and rations, enough to ensure self-sufficiency for one year. Alternative transportation systems devised to help carry their infamous ton of gear included aerial tramways, pack animals and Tlingit porters.
Hiking the Chilkoot Trail is such a popular recreational activity that permit numbers are limited during the peak season months of June to early September.
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
In Alaska, the Chilkoot Trail is part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. Beginning at the bridge over the River Taiya near the town of Dyea (15 miles/24km from Skagway, the trail goes over the Coast Mountains and Chilkoot Pass to Lake Bennett in British Columbia.
There are nine official campgrounds dotted along the trail. To protect against attracting the unwanted attentions of bears along the route, food must be safely stowed and bear spray repellent carried.